For many people a garden is high up on the tick box list when it comes to choosing their new home but you may be surprised to hear of the many health benefits associated with gardening. Here are just a few of the benefits of gardening;
- Stress relief and improved self-esteem – it has been said that gardening can help to reduce levels of ‘the stress hormone’ cortisol. A reduction in cortisol levels can lead to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental wellbeing. The act of nurturing a seed through to a plant can also have a positive effect on self-esteem.
- Heart health and stroke risk – studies have shown that regular gardening can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Because of the physical nature of gardening this activity will naturally help to strengthen the heart, building endurance and increasing stamina.
- Vitamin D – Being outdoors increases exposure to sunlight which will in turn increase your intake of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and various cancers. But remember to be sun safe and protect your skin from burning when in the sun for any length of time.
- Brain health – Gardening not only exercises the body, but also the mind. Gardening stimulates the mind, engaging our problem solving skills and sensory awareness therefore keeping our brains active.
- Muscle toning – Regular gardening can have positive benefits in helping to tone and strengthen the muscles in the back, arms, abdominals, bottom and thighs. Gardening can also help to increase hand strength and dexterity. An hour spent weeding the garden can burn between 200 and 400 calories!
- Increases immunity – greater exposure to bacteria in the soil can contribute to a stronger immune system.
- Depression and mental health – Gardening can have a positive effect on mental health. It is thought that the combination of physical work, problem solving, cognitive stimulation and awareness of the natural surroundings can contribute to increased feelings of wellbeing. Exercise increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine, hormones that make us feel good. Gardening also provides a great opportunity for practicing mindfulness, a practice commonly used for reducing anxiety.
You can also use your garden for good by actively attracting bees. Bees are one of the world’s most important pollinators of food crops and according to Friends of the Earth; a decline in bees’ diversity and abundance would have a serious impact on how the natural world functions. Bee population is in decline due to various reasons including habitat loss; pests and disease and the use of pesticides which are harmful to the bees’ health. By growing plants such as honeysuckle, wild roses, lavender, foxgloves, hollyhocks, clematis and hydrangeas, this can help to protect bees by providing a food source, shelter and resting places.
And finally, don’t be put off if you don’t have a garden, there are plenty of gardening ideas for those living in apartments or with limited space including windowsill boxes and hanging baskets so just get creative!